Saturday, November 14, 2020

Review of A Treatise on Efficacy: Between Western and Chinese Thinking by François Jullien

This review was written by Eugene Kernes

Book can be found in:
Genre = Philosophy

Elaborate Description

Different perspectives, the assumptions everyone uses to evaluate the world, have vastly different understandings. The Wests’ perspective is very dichotomic. Starting with the theory of what should be to the practice which always falls short of theory. Chinese perspective considers the continuous process. The interactions between factors generating the order. Dividing the world into good and evil misses the interaction between them and changes the meaning of the opposites. While the West trying to identify the ideal architype of everything, Chinese try to manage the flow of events.

The different perspectives were found most in the military references. One such reference expresses the views of generals. From the West, generals need every individual to act bravery. Actions provides honor and action is what changes the course of events. From the Chinese, generals exploit the potential of the situation. Bravery is the result of how the general utilizes the potential of the army.

For the West, action is necessary to control uncertainty of the future. Chinese try to transform or nudge the potential of events to get their results. An emergent result from diffused responses. An emphasis on waiting to let the evolution of events take course. Without action there is little to distinguish from who has done and what is done causing many to claim to be the source. Imperceptible changes but with drastically different outcomes.

The book is a very difficult read. Being a translation may have made the book slightly more difficult, but much has to do with the way it was written and the topic itself. Most examples and clarifications are from military history. History going back more than a millennium and most of the time, going back more than two millennia. Without going into detail about the history, and without a more recent context, understanding the philosophy becomes a challenge. The other difficulty of the writing is due to the difficulty of explaining vastly different ideas. Trying to explain a different way of thinking. Without prior exposure to the assumptions held by the different philosophies, expressing an understanding to them is a challenge.

Book Details

Edition ISBN:  9780824828301
Pages to read:   201
Publication:     2004
1st Edition:      2004
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    2
Content          4
Overall           3